2008 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed Review & Road Test
Exhilarating performance, commanding status and absolute prestige
- 2008 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed 6.0-litre, W12, automatic saloon - $400,176 (RRP)
Bold performance; elegant cabin decor; timeless appeal
Slight wind and wiper blade noise; plastic paddle shifts
- by Matt Brogan
Exhilarating performance, commanding status and absolute prestige.
While the tone of this statement may well reflect the sentiment of a conceited commercial for some lesser European marque, the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed is one car that doesn’t need to indulge in cheap marketing gimmicks or clever phrasing to sell its cars.
In fact you could say with complete honesty that the Speed is the epitome of all of these qualities, and then some, and for those very reasons the car sells itself.
Should you be lucky enough to be in that elite group who can afford to indulge in such refinement then take heed - for this car is a cracker, and if you are able to splurge on such a vehicle then you deserve the fastest and the finest money can buy, and truly this is it - the quickest four-door Grand Tourer in the world.
When I waltzed in to the Bentley garage to collect 'my' Speed I was a touch overwhelmed upon reacquainting myself with the size of this beautifully capricious vehicle. It’s one of those attributes easily forgotten since last driving one, and just as simple to overlook once again behind the wheel.
Ignoring the vehicular dimensions and focusing specifically on the driving experience, the Continental simply doesn’t feel big. The composed ride quality and quietly balanced feedback mask the outward proportions splendidly. It feels no bigger to drive than a Mercedes-Benz S Class from a driver’s perspective, but at 214mm longer and 246mm wider, it certainly is up there in that next bracket.
The deep lustre of the Granite paintwork, the flowing, timeless sculpture of a full-size saloon car, and that sumptuous, elegant décor of the cabin are enough to gain the respect of any car enthusiast but the Speed badge brings even more purpose to this exemplary and bespoke GT.
Adding to the Jekyll and Hyde persona is the Speed’s ease of operation. For a car of such esteem it certainly is a docile beast under normal operation displaying almost none of the immense capabilities on offer from the engine room when just plodding around town, but give the elegantly crafted alloy pedal a small prod and the intent becomes as rapidly noticeable as does the velocity itself.
Along with an already impressive 6.0-litre W12 engine (arranged in four banks of three cylinders each), the Speed badge brings an additional 37kW of ferocious power and 100Nm of chassis twisting torque to the big Bender’s standard form, thanks primarily to twin turbochargers, that endow the beast with a total of 449kW at 6000rpm and 750Nm of torque, available all the way from 1700rpm to just under peak power at 5600rpm. Power certainly in the realm of being able to corrupt even the most feather-footed driver.
A paddle-shift equipped six-speed automatic is seamless of shift and perfectly calibrated to the respective driving style one would associate with each of the two settings (Drive and Sport). Crisp response and fluid changes herald luxury performance motoring’s finer characteristics, deserved refinement that can only be truly appreciated at this end of the scale, though I must say, the plastic composite paddles do feel a little on the cheap side, very out of place comparative to the remainder of the car.
The performance on hand though is not completely disguised, for as well as being visibly fast – as the name might well suggest – the Speed boasts a remarkably thunderous aural character, most especially following a brief burst of acceleration and sudden release of the throttle.
The unburnt fuel burns fast in a deep, resounding clap. It’s the closest noise to thunder I’ve yet heard, so the next time your kid ask where thunder comes from, you can reply with all sincerity “the back of a Bentley, son”.
Handling, which coincidentally is adjustable for both firmness and ride height, is well sorted given the car’s obvious proportions and perhaps surprisingly, manages very swift and sorted cornering for the most part. Under duress the car’s inertia is evident and it will tend to understeer slightly, though I can’t imagine too many Bentley owners driving in an attempt to find this threshold.
The ride on offer is as you’d well expect. Smooth, sorted, yet stiff when need requires. The wishbone front, multi-link rear end is assisted by self-levelling air springs with electronically controlled dampers each independently variable to ensure positive road holding at all times, further assisting the continuous all-wheel-drive and limited-slip differential in doing their job.
Steering is precise, well weighted and offers superb levels of feedback but remains as easy to manage at parking speeds as a light hatch. The carbon ceramic brakes are truly fade free and are expectantly the largest diameter of any offered in a passenger car. The pedal takes a little effort to operate, but the reward is worth every calorie burnt doing so. For a big car, it stops as quickly as it gets going. Impressive stuff.
The interior is completely hand crafted, and to better understand the workmanship involved, I went to visit a friend who makes custom interiors for show cars. To say he was impressed was an understatement.
Eleven hides, all selected to be free of any imperfection, no matter how slight (even something as slight as an insect bite on the hide will see it rejected) are all hand stitched ensuring complete uniformity in tone, colour and texture between all surfaces. Even the leather bound steering wheel is double hand stitched using one length of thread to ensure a perfect finish - a process that takes up to five hours.
The wood veneer is real walnut and offers a beautiful old world feel that reminds you of the marque's heritage and indeed adds to the overall elegance of the cabin creating an ambiance of complete refinement, something even I thought was lost in modern cars.
An extensive feature list includes bi-xenon headlamps, tyre pressure monitoring, trip computer, power windows and mirrors, radar cruise control, remote central locking, rain sensing wipers, lowered sports suspension, sports tuned exhaust, 20-inch alloy wheels, electric rear blind, carpets and seats belts with colour to match trim, voice activated Bluetooth, satellite navigation, television, six-CD stacker, electronically adjustable heated leather seats with massage feature and memory, four-zone climate control, alloy pedals and sills, television, rear view camera parking aid, plush Mulliner lambswool rugs matched to carpet colour, power boot open/close and tilt/slide sunroof.
The Naim stereo, engineered specifically for the acoustic area of the Continental's cabin features 15 speakers (including dual boot mounted sub-woofers), dynamic equalisation technology, speed dependent volume control, iPod, satellite navigation and phone integration and an impressive 1100 watt, 13.2 channel amplifier. It's incredible. Completely clear, free from any distortion at all volumes and absolutely perfect of tone.
Of course the Bentley is equipped with a full list of safety features including ABS, EBA, EBD, ESP and Traction Control as well as a full house of airbags.
If there has to be a downside to the Speed it's that the wipers were a touch noisy on switching direction and there's a very slight wind whistle at the top end of the front doors just where they meet the B pillar, otherwise it's pretty hard to fault.
At $400,176 the Speed is a little out of reach for most of us, in fact it's worth as much as my house. Though to put things in perspective, it is only $30,000 more than a regular Continental Flying Spur but with performance that makes even supercar owners bow in awe. Truly impressive, remarkably bespoke and beautifully fast I'd take one home again any day.
CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:
- Engine: 5998cc DOHC W12 (48 valve)
- Power: 449kW @ 6000rpm
- Torque: 750Nm @ 1700 - 5600rpm
- Induction: Twin-turbo multi-point
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Driven Wheels: All
- Brakes: Carbon ceramic discs
- Top Speed: 322km/h
- 0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds
- 0-100mp/h: 11.3 seconds
- 0-400m: 12.5 seconds @ 169.05km/h
- CO2 Emissions: 396g/km
- Fuel Consumption: 16.6 litres/100km
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 90-litres
- Fuel Type: 98RON petrol
- ANCAP Rating: N/A
- Airbags: Front, side & curtain
- Safety: ABS, EBA, EBD, ESP & Traction Control
- Spare Wheel: Space saver
- Tow Capacity: N/A
- Turning Circle: 11.8 metres
- Warranty: Three Year/Unlimited Kilometre
- Weight: 2440kg (Tare)
- Wheels: Alloy 20 x 9.0-inch